Skip to Content

onThisPage ( )

A Spotter’s Guide to HIPs and Strings

Posted under Musical Technology at . Last updated 2022-05-05 17:11.
Tags:piano, Hohner, ELEX, artwork, string machine, Logan, ELKA, reference

A summary of investigations into Hohner analogue electronic pianos and string machines. (To date. Not planning any updates at this point, but you never know.)

Not long after the technology became reasonably affordable, Matth. Hohner AG sold several electronic piano and string machine models under their Hohner International brand, apparently aiming at cheapness and portability compared with their acoustic and electromechanical keyboards. Most of these were either rebadged ELEX (Excelsior) products or perhaps Hohner-inspired modifications of them. Some were rebadged ELKA and Logan instruments, and they produced a couple of their own designs. [1] (Hohner did also produce organs, bass keyboards and pedalboards, acoustic and electromechanical piano-like instruments amongst others, but that’s not today’s topic.)

The plethora of these instruments from different manufacturers, some sold as Hohner, some not, some easily distinguished, some not, some modified either inside or out over their production span, has led to a certain amount of confusion in the years since, and poses a puzzle for people interested in obtaining and/or repairing them. But perhaps it’s possible to construct a comprehensive overview which will allow them to be identified and distinguished?

The instruments here mostly were intended to emulate pianos (and other keyed instruments) and string ensembles — usually making the same string sound available in different registers as violin, viola, and cello. They sometimes added other emulations, and sometimes entirely original electronic sounds. Bass below usually means a low-pass-filtered piano note, perhaps emulating plucked-string-bass, though it is usually similar to the more basic bass synthesisers of the day. Naturally, none of the emulations are very realistic; they have a character of their own, which is what makes them potentially interesting. That said, not all of them are very good. The piano voices are generally simplistic, and the bass voices in particular tend to sound a bit weedy until you connect them to an audio system capable of doing them justice.


HIPs and Strings

Ephemeral photos of most of these instruments turn up occasionally in online sales; longer-term linkable references are given below. Different branding seems to have been used by Hohner in different national markets, however, so even if this list is comprehensive technically (which I can’t guarantee), there may be alternative names in some parts.

Drawings below are sketches intended to highlight the distinguishing characteristics of the instruments, rather than be exhaustively accurate. Or get the perspective right or anything. Slider caps in particular may vary even in the same model; so I’m not trying too hard to represent the exact types found — where they haven’t all vanished or been replaced.

Hohner International String Vox

One of the earliest of these instruments (1974), this is the Hohner-rebadged ElkaRhapsody 490. It is the smallest instrument here, but the most obvious difference between it and every other one is the beige case. (Most of the ELKA originals were black, but there appear to have been some beige ones too. I do not know for certain that Hohner never sold a black one.) The difference between the ELKAs and the Hohners is minimal — where ELKA have ElkaRhapsody 490 printed on their control panels, Hohner have String-Vox. And similarly on the nameplate on the back.

It is purely a string machine, with no additional voices, so its controls are very simple, two slide potentiometers and two buttons; and like all the string-only machines here it has a 49-key keyboard. (All the instruments here with a piano function have 60 or 61 keys.)

Hohner International String Vox visual layout
Hohner International String Vox

Not to be confused with: The Stringvox (below), the Vox String Thing[2], the ElkaRhapsody 610.

References:


Hohner International String Melody and String Melody II

Also in the mid-70s, Hohner rebadged the Logan String Melody. The only changes made were branding on the front panel and case rear. This is also a simple string machine, but it has more extensive control than most, twelve slide potentiometers and a preset button, and has a 2+2 octave split keyboard with separate controls, and an additional organ-like or percussive bass voice on the low side. There is also a tuning trimmer at the left end of the upper panel (tone generation uses a 50240 TOG) and an orchestra preset button to its right. Unlike the ELKA, it comes built into a flightcase and has a lift-off lid. (In spite of which it also came with a flying mains lead which entered the case outside the lid, with no storage method for transport other than strapping it to the case exterior.)

Hohner International String Melody visual layout
Hohner International String Melody

There was also a later [3] Logan String Melody II, and Hohner rebadged it too. Again this involved only minimal cosmetic changes. The update brought in more buttons for extra presets and an output impedance trimmer beside the tuning trimmer. The preset buttons are now to the left of the trimmers.

Hohner International String Melody II visual layout
Hohner International String Melody II

References:

String Melody
  • Till Kopper’s Logan String Melody article.
    (Caveat: TK mischaracterises the String Orchestra as a Wersi version of the SMII.)
  • AnalogAudio demo video.
    (This video gives 1974 as the production date, but that may be the specific instrument. Other sources give 1973.)
String Melody II

Hohner International Electronic Piano K1

There were several versions of the K1. They appear to fit a six-way classification, based on physical and functional but not cosmetic changes. (e.g. control changes but not name/logo changes.) Branding varied between national markets; and I don’t know that all revisions were sold everywhere. The revision numbers given here, r1 to r6, are added for reference, not part of any model names.

K1r1: HIP

The first (1975 [4]) was a rebadged ELEX K1. This is a 61-key electronic piano with a top octave produced by twelve oscillators,[5] with individual external tuning access holes on the back panel. The tone signals are fed through seven octave divisions to 61 individual envelope generators, producing 61-note polyphonic articulation, then some filters producing the different voices. [6] Technically the filtering is paraphonic, as the envelopes feed into one filter per voice. Envelopes are fairly simple when you just need a discharge profile, so that’s affordable.

There are two mixable voices — piano and steel guitar/harpsichord. (I don’t understand the concurrence of steel guitar and harpsichord here. Perhaps the sound aims somewhere in between.) There is also an overall volume control, and a single output. All the volumes are slide pots. There is a vibrato circuit with rotary off/on-speed and delay on-off controls. The key action is roughly velocity-sensitive (with no sensitivity control). The keys appear to be square-profile in all identifiable cases. [7] The power switch is a single-pole type with neon, mounted on a small right keydeck panel — at the opposite end from the power input, transformer, and regulator, for no obvious reason. (n.b. the exact appearance of the power switch may vary in the r1–r4, but is functionally identical.) And the power input is an IEC C14 socket.

Hohner International Piano (K1r1) visual layout K1r1 rear view
Hohner International Electronic Piano K1 (r1)

From photographs and video I’ve seen, where the ELEX versions are ELEX branded front and back, these have a simple form of Hohner International. I haven’t seen a reasonable picture of either nameplate; indeed the Crasno HIP doesn’t seem to have one.

All versions of the K1 have some form of music stand and legs attachment, and a sustain pedal. The music stand is a plain black plastic sheet with metal feet that sit in the sockets on the top panel, with storage straps on the case underside. The sustain pedal and legs are stored in a separate bag.

References:
  • Crasno HIP repair article. Also has a scan of a Hohner advert for the K1r1 which uses the term Hohner International Piano (and has a rather optimistic description of its tonal range). [8]
  • Hohner K1 demo video.
  • International Musician, May 1975, Keyboard Survey — found at mu:zines
    A relatively new product from Hohner is the Hi-Piano. With sounds ranging from the traditional piano to honky-tonk, harpsichord, Hawaiian and steel guitar, the Hi-Piano offers dynamic touch expression complemented by vibrato speed and decay controls, as well as a sustain pedal.”
    This is presumably the r1 as it makes no mention of a bass voice.

HIP II

Following on from the original K1 there were some revisions with a 1½:3½ octave keyboard split and a new optional bass voice for the lower 19 keys (F–B). It seems best to categorise all of them as HIP IIs. I don’t know whether ELEX sold these under their own badge, as I’ve only seen Hohner versions.

K1r2

This revision makes the most significant functional change — keyboard split and bass voice, which has its own output socket, together with a general output, all in a slightly wider sockets/fuse panel. Other than that it’s indistinguishable from the r1 rear — the term International Piano II is not yet used in branding on the instrument. The bass controls are mounted in a cutout on the front (rather than, y’know, redesign it or anything). The key/keybed type has changed, using tapering rather than square-end keys. (This remains the same through to the r6.)

Hohner International Piano II (K1r2) visual layout
Hohner International Electronic Piano K1 (r2)

The nameplates on the back (when present) have Hohner International / Electronic Piano / K1. (But they have sometimes been advertised as K7s — possibly just a misreading.) The Hohner International plate on the case front has been replaced with a square logo plate on those I’ve seen photographed. I haven’t seen interiors of this model.

n.b. this is the instrument featured in the HIP II advert stored at Preservation Sound, though there it has both text and logo versions of the front plate. So International Piano II was already used in marketing. However, it is also shown in Hohner Keyboards from c.1977, listed as the Hohner International K1 Piano.

Judged purely by the frequency with which it comes up for sale, this seems to be the commonest (surviving) version.

References:
K1r3

This seems to be functionally identical to the K1r2. It has the same nameplate, but can be distinguished by:

  • a lateral slide pot for vibrato speed,
  • pushbuttons rather than rotary switches for vibrato and delay on/off,
  • marker tabs behind the end keys of the bass range, and
  • the name, International Piano II, printed on the rear, in a strip together with what would become the standard Hohner International with logo branding.

Like the earlier models, this has twelve oscillators and a tuning access hole on the back for each of them. (I haven’t seen any interior photos of this either. And no permanent reference materials for this one, though it has appeared on auction sites in recent years.)

Hohner International Piano II (K1r3) visual layout K1r3 rear view
Hohner International International Piano II (K1r3)
References:
  • VSE Comment, general references, below.
K1r4

While mostly identical to the K1r3 — indistinguishable from top-front — this has a single (clock) oscillator and TOG chip (50240) inside, and a single tuning access hole on the rear. (So no more custom tunings.) It can be distinguished from the K1r5 only by the position of the power switch.

K1r4 rear view
Hohner International International Piano II (K1r4), rear
K1r5

Nearly identical to the K1r4, but has a double-pole power switch on the front panel (still at the opposite end from the input and transformer), replacing the logo plate in that position. [9]

Hohner International Piano II (K1r5) visual layout
Hohner International International Piano II (K1r5)

I’ve seen this for sale as K2 but that’s contradicted by the K1 on the nameplate. Possibly the sellers had seen a K2; they are visually related, sort of.

K1r6

The most significant revision was the blacktop r6, released in 1978 or ’79. I don’t know whether it was also ELEX or Excelsior branded. It has front panel branding Hohner International K1 with the H-globe logo to the left of the text; and a rear nameplate Electronic Piano K1 — but no mention of HIP II. Nor have I seen any other reference to it as a HIP II, so I expect the marketing had moved on. Not HIP III either, just K1. It’s functionally similar to the K1r2–r5, with the following changes:

  • a new case style, a blacktop flightcase similar to the re-release K2 and K4, with black panels;
  • all controls are now on the keydeck;
  • the keyboard split is now 2:3 octaves, with bass acting as an alternate on the lowest 24 keys (F–E);
  • voice changes — there are now Piano I and II, which are switched separately, but share a mix fader; the Steel Guitar suggestion is gone, but Harpsichord and Bass remain with their own switches and faders;
  • the master volume control is gone;
  • internally, the envelope circuits are on their own boards — soldered-in; previous K1s had them all on a single larger board;
  • much of the audio processing circuitry has been substantially redesigned;
  • and the transformer and power board are moved to the right of the case (also like the K4 blacktop);
  • the keys are the same as on the r5, but it uses a new keybed based on a steel-bar chassis.
Hohner International Piano K1r6 visual layout
Hohner International Electronic Piano K1 (r6)

References:

  • The Hohner K1r6 appears in Chappell Music July 1979 (general references, below), listed as new.
  • This is probably the instrument described (with some errors regarding oscillator and envelope function) in this repair article.
  • VSE Comment, general references, below.
K1 Distinguishing Characteristics Summary
r1r2 r3r4 r5r6
top octave generation 12 oscillators (& tuning access holes) clock (& single tuning access hole) + 50240 IC
bass voice 19 keys, controls in front cutout panel 24 keys, controls on left keydeck
piano voices Piano,
Steel Guitar/Harpsichord
Piano I,
Piano II,
Harpsichord
power switch SPST on right keydeck DPST on front panel SPST on right keydeck
master volume control yes no
vibrato controls rotary switch/speed pot,
rotary delay switch
pushbutton switch,
linear speed pot,
pushbutton delay switch
key profile square taper
case grey painted steel top panel,
vinyl-covered ends and lower case
black-painted steel top panel,
vinyl-covered flightcase with lid

None to be confused with: The EKO K1 (bass pedal board), the Korg K1 (Microkorg 700) (synthesiser).


Hohner International K2

There seem to be three distinct versions of the ELEX K2; some of which were clearly rebadged by Hohner. Revision numbers added, r1 to r3, are not part of the model name, but are given for reference.

K2r1: Stringvox

The ELEX K2 was also rebadged by Hohner, and some at least also have the Hohner International / Electronic Piano nameplate, but stamped K2. This in spite of being primarily a string machine. (It does still have piano and harpsichord voices, so it counts.) However, its model name is usually given as the Stringvox (not String Vox, with a space), and that may be used on some nameplates (images unclear). The keyboard has a 2oct:3oct split with separate voice volume and strings decay controls. It has cello and strings voices as well as optional bass (plucked) on the low end. The controls arrangement is different from the K1s, mounted behind the keys and on the top panel. Visually it is very similar to the K3, but can be distinguished by having twelve buttons and eleven slide pots. Unlike most K1 variants, the K2 and K3 have removable lids, and a carry handle. At least some K2s seem to have had bass-range marker tabs like the late HIP IIs, which may imply simultaneous design. However, the rear-panel branding varies, some with a simple textual Hohner International similar to the the K1r1/r2, and some with the H-globe logo in a stripe with STRINGVOX, similar to the K1r3–5. The music stand in the K2 is stored in the lid rather than on the underside. K2s also had an optional bass pedal board, connected through what looks a DIN 41622 16-pin (one blanked) socket, or similar, on the rear.

Hohner International Stringvox (K2) visual layout
Hohner International Stringvox

Inevitably, there are marketing differences. In Hohner Keyboards c.1977 this is listed as Hohner International K2 Piano String.

K2r2: String Orchestra

There was also a K2 version called String Orchestra, with a mostly wooden (veneer?) case rather than vinyl-on-board, which may have been sold by Hohner, but this is a matter of debate. They appear not to have had branding for any distributing company. The top panel seems identical except for the absence of bass range markers, and it’s painted a lighter colour, possibly white. It does not appear in any Hohner promotional materials I’ve seen.

(unidentified brand) K2 ‘String Orchestra’ visual layout
(uncertain brand) K2 String Orchestra

K2r3

The K2 was also re-released as a blacktop version, badged as ELEX, Hohner, and (presumably later) as Excelsior. The Hohner version was still called Stringvox. Controls and general layout are the same, but bass range markers were not used. I don’t know whether there were any changes to the circuitry or keyboard, but it appears to have a lower power rating than some K2r1s, which may imply a change somewhere.

ELEX K2 (re-release type) visual layout
ELEX K2 (re-release case type)

In addition to the case type and colour change, the button controls are coloured plastic rather than metallic.

None to be confused with: The EKO K2 (bass pedal board), the Vox String Thing, mountains, the Logan/Wersi String Orchestra, the Korg K2 (Microkorg 700S) (synthesiser).

References:

  • ELEX K2r1 video with way too much visual distortion, and misdescribed as an organ, but good audio.
  • Hohner Stringvox (K2r1)
  • ELEX K2r3 photos at Matrixsynth.
  • Excelsior K2r3 at synthmaster.de
  • The Hohner K2r3 appears in Chappell Music July 1979 (general references, below), listed as new.
  • Hohner adverts, general references, below.
  • Hohner Keyboards, general references, below.
  • K-Wood, general references, below.

Hohner International Electronic Piano K3

The K3 (1975 [10]) was sold as a Hohner, and has the Hohner International Electronic Piano nameplate. (I haven’t seen an ELEX original so I’m not sure if it was sold by them directly.) It more resembles the K2 than the K1, seemingly having the same case but different controls — seven pots and nine buttons. There is relatively little information available about it, but so far as I can tell it’s primarily a piano, but also has a simple organ preset voice as well as bass.

Hohner International K3 Piano visual layout
Hohner International Electronic Piano K3

I haven’t seen any re-releases of the K3, and the original seems be very rare, possibly only sold in North America as all references or examples seem to come from there.

Not to be confused with: The EKO K3 (bass pedal board), the Korg K3 (Maxikorg 800DV) (synthesiser).

References:


Hohner International String Synthesizer K4

The ELEX K4 string machine was also rebadged by Hohner. It seems to have been made in three distinct versions; the release sequence is not certain, and in one case it isn’t clear whether it was released by Hohner. Another 49-key pure string machine, its controls are fairly simple (four slide pots and three buttons). It has only Cello and Strings voices. Revision numbers added, r1 to r3, are not part of the actual model name, but are given for reference.

K4r1: Woodtop

The original version seems to have been made with a wood top case, though I don’t know if wood here is wood, veneer, or printed vinyl. Like the earlier ELEXs, there is a music stand, stored in the lid. The attachment is different from the others though, a pair of slots in the case rather than metal sockets. At least some of the woodtops have external PSUs which plugged in as a single connector with a volume pedal. (Similar to some older combo organs.) I haven’t seen the Hohner nameplate on any of these but several photos from the front with the logo exist.

Hohner International K4 ‘woodtop’ string machine visual layout
Hohner International String Synthesizer K4 (woodtop)

This appears in Hohner Keyboards, c.1977, listed as Hohner International K4 String.

K4r2: String Orchestra

A K4 was also released with unclear branding as String Orchestra with an all-wooden (probably mostly veneer) case, similar to the K2 String Orchestra but with a wood rather than metal top panel. If the K2 String Orchestra is a Hohner this presumably is too. But is it?

(unidentified brand) ELEX K4 ‘String Orchestra’ visual layout
(uncertain brand) K4 String Orchestra

K4r3: Blacktop

There was also a blacktop version which I think is a later re-release. (Based on the adverts shown below, the woodtop version is likely to have been contemporary with the K1r2 and K2r1; while the blacktop is likely to to have been contemporary with the K1r6 and K2r3.) Those blacktops where I’ve seen the connectors have mains power and separate pedal sockets, and a Hohner International / String Synthesizer K4 nameplate. It was also released as the ELEX String Synthesiser K4 and later with Excelsior branding.

Hohner International K4 ‘blacktop’ string machine visual layout
Hohner International String Synthesizer K4 (blacktop)

None to be confused with: The Korg/Univox K4 (PE-1000), the Logan/Wersi String Orchestra.

References:

  • Hohner K4r1 (wooden-top) auction pic at Matrixsynth
  • ELEX K4r1 (wooden-tops):
  • K4r2 String Orchestra video.
  • Hohner K4r3 (blacktop) auction pictures at Matrixsynth. (For some reason, described as a Brass/String Synthesizer, which it’s not.)
  • The Hohner K4r3 appears in Chappell Music July 1979 (general references, below), listed as new.
  • Hohner adverts, general references, below.
  • Hohner Keyboards, general references, below.
  • K-Wood, general references, below.
  • VSE Comment, general references, below.

Hohner String Performer

In 1979 Hohner released the String Performer, a 60-key instrument of their own design, which combined Strings (Cello, Viola, Violin), Pianos (Piano, Clavichord), Bass and a Solo section, with a split keyboard with the bass operational only on the low side and the solo only on the upper. The Solo section is a four-voice monophonic preset synth. There are two control panels, one at either end of the keydeck, Solo to the right and everything else (polyphonic) to the left.

Unusually, there are two separate TOG oscillators, one for the polyphonic system and one for the Solo. The Solo section has a fixed vibrato function. And unlike the polyphonic system it can be tuned externally. There are different power supply versions, some mains-powered with internal transformers, and one with a DC input for external power adaptors.

Hohner String Perfomer visual layout
Hohner String Performer

Uniquely amongst these instruments, this has a flip-up lid — just like a proper piano. It is very hard to mistake this for any of the above; it more resembles some of the Hohner Clavinets and Pianets. (Nevertheless, it is sometimes referred to as the Hohner String Orchestra Performer in online comments.)

References:

  • Demo Video by AnalogAudio
  • The String Performer appears in Chappell Music July 1979 (general references, below), listed as to be available in August that year.

Hohner International EK61 Globetrotter

The Globetrotter seems to be a sort of cut-down version of the K1r6, without the vibrato function or Piano II tone (Piano, Harpsichord and Bass only), and a bit smaller. It’s the first of these instruments since the K1r5 not to be built into a flightcase, and the first since the String Melodys to have a power switch on the rear of the case rather than front/top. Unlike the K1s, it has a flying lead, not a power socket. It has a new key type, similar to those on the later C86. In other respects it comes somewhere between the K1r6 and the EK 2 & EK 4 stylistically. I assume it was built by Excelsior; but the nearest thing to proof I’ve seen is Made in Italy on the nameplate. I don’t know whether it was produced before or after the other EKs, but there’s a reference to it in Electronic Soundmaker as a secondhand instrument in 1985, which would place it in roughly the same period.

Hohner EK61 visual layout
Hohner International Globetrotter

An odd feature is that the H-globe logo on the top panel is inversed compared to every other instance I’ve seen, with the globe on the left of the H. Like . . . it’s trotting off somewhere? Not sure if deliberate.(is-that-so? emoticon)

Another one is the connection of the sustain pedal . . . it seems to be permanently attached, like the power plug. But . . . isn’t that too cheap, even for Hohner? Well, no. I suppose this much can be said for it — they don’t tend to lose their pedals.

Not to be confused with: Kimball EK61 (electronic piano), Welson Globe-trotter (double-manual organ).

References:


Hohner International EK 2

Moving into the 1980s, there was the Excelsior EK 2 rebadged as Hohner International EK 2, which combined piano (piano, harpsichord, electric piano), bass, strings (16′, 8′) and brass (16′, 8′) voices. Like the EK61, it has no piano vibrato functions. The case design and control panel are new, and it’s the first of these instruments since the ELKA to not have a music stand. The H-globe logo has . . . trotted off entirely, leaving just the text. [11]

Hohner International (ELEX) EK2 visual layout
Hohner International EK 2

Not to be confused with: The ELKA EK-22 (synthesiser).

References:


Hohner C86

This is a combined piano-bass-organ, but not like the K3; a rather strange machine in which the leftmost group of rocker switches act as a four-bit binary code selecting voice characteristics given in an on-panel menu to their left. It’s awkwardly constructed, with a high-angle control panel stuck in a Clavinet/String Performer lower case. Like the String Performer it has a general and three separate voice outputs. But it also doesn’t have a music stand; these seem to have become unfashionable by the mid-80s.

Hohner C86 visual layout
Hohner C86

References:


After this, Hohner seem to have stopped producing electronic pianos (other than home keyboards), and string machines generally ceased to be produced as a distinct class. (But I might have missed some — updates possible here.)


UnHIPs and NonStrings

To finish up, some points to watch out for. Things which are not Hohner International Pianos or String Machines and are not directly related include:

  • The ELKA Rhapsody 610.
    ELKA Rhapsody 610 visual layout
    The Rhapsody 610 is a 61-key Piano+Strings instrument introduced in about 1976. There are people on the Net who will promise you that the K2/Stringvox is a rebadged Rhapsody 610 (or vice-versa), even though the instrument they’re looking at does not have anything like the same controls or case, let alone circuitry. You may also find people asserting, with that superb degree of confidence attainable when unencumbered by evidence, that Hohner rebadged the 610. n.b. the 610 was initially produced in brown & beige but black seems more common.
  • The Logan (or Wersi) String Orchestra.
    Logan String Orchestra visual layout
    This was Logan’s follow-up to the String Melody and String Melody II, released 1979 or earlier. There are two slight variations; one with a single preset button (orchestra) and one with two (orchestra and organ) which seems to be Logan-only (pictured). There seems to be no record of Hohner rebadging it (they may have opted to produce the String Performer instead), but it was rebadged by Wersi (though maybe only in Germany?). [12] Nevertheless there are those who believe it to have been either a Wersi-only product, or to have actually been a Hohner product, and/or from 1973.
    • The Wersi version may have had varying case styles, or (since Wersi) have been available as a kit, with varying results. Insufficient information to be certain.
    • Note potential confusion between the Logan String Orchestra, and the ELEX K2 and K4 String Orchestras, whoever sold them.

General References

Chappell Music, July 1979 Sale Catalogue, p6

Chappell Music July 1979 p6

Chappell Music was a shop in London, England. (Perhaps a chain of shops?) Several Hohner instruments were listed in their catalogues.

Back to front:

  • Clavinet D6, Clavinet Duo
  • String Performer
  • K2r3, K4r3
  • Pianet T
  • K1r6

The K1, K2 and K4 are advertised as new, but seemingly not as new as the String Performer, which was expected the following month.

Hohner Adverts

  1. annotated 1977 Hohner advert

    Advert at Preservation Sound — see annotated version, right. Back to front:

    • K3 piano/organ, and Hohner Bass 2.
    • K2 string machine/piano (Stringvox K2r1),
    • K4 string machine (String Synthesizer K4r1, wood-top version),
    • Hohner International Electronic Piano (K1r2),
    • Clavinet D6 (Hohner-made),

    Apparently this advert is from 1977 but the exact source isn’t given.

  2. Hohner advert, Contemporary Keyboard Dec. 1979 p15 Advert in Contemporary Keyboard, December 1979, p15. (Drawing, not photographic.) This is a North-American-market advert, and the Instruments are named International Piano II (K1r3 or r4), Stringvox (K2r1), Jazz-Rock Organ/Piano (K3), Stringer (K4r1), plus Clavinet (D6), Pianet and Clavinet/Pianet Duo. Notably, all four Ks are still shown as the early revisions, implying that at the end of 1979 either the blacktop versions hadn’t yet been released in N. America, or that Hohner were still trying to get rid of old stock in preparation for the makeover.

As with some other Hohner adverts, the branding on these instruments is not quite that found in the wild. The left-hand name+logo plate seen on the K1–K4s is not unique to these images, but I haven’t seen it in real life, even in pictures from North America.

Hohner Keyboards, c.1977, p4

Hohner Keyboards p4

Hohner International produced a UK brochure in about 1977, though it has no date. Page 4 lists some of the above instruments.

Top to bottom:

  • Hohner International K1 Piano (K1r2 photographed),
  • Hohner International K2 Piano String (K2r1),
  • Hohner International K4 String (K4r1).

The logo plates seen here are as usually seen in the wild.

K-Wood

There appear to have been wooden-cased versions of both the K2 and K4, released only with the label String Orchestra.

According to Keyboards (.de) the K2r2 was a Hohner, but visual evidence is not shown. Another seemingly identical instrument is said by Tastronauten (but with reservations: ein ziemlich dubioses Instrument) to be a Farfisa, but again, there is no visual confirmation, and it is stated that there is no manufacturer/distributor branding.

There is also a K4 called String Orchestra in a similar case, and described as a Farfisa.

Neither of these appears to have an actual company label. It is unclear why either of them would be considered a Farfisa except that they may loosely resemble the wood-version Farfisa Syntorchestras. But would Farfisa have brought out another product in competition with their established Syntorchestras or upcoming Syntorchestra 4? It might depend on volumes, and these both appear to be exceptionally rare. Possibly ELEX just made a few of them as luxury items and sold them though different distributors, with no names to keep things simple?

VSE Comment

In 2007 a comment was written on the Virtual Synth Explorer site which has been oft quoted, but which did not itself give references. Some of the assertions made there appear to be backed up by other evidence, but not all, and the writer appears to have been a little unclear about Hohner company structure. However, from this comment it appears that:

  • the original version was called K1 by Hohner,
  • ELEX used K2 through K4 (implying also K1), and
  • multiple revisions of the K1 were released, including a late black version of the K1,
  • and there was a late black K4 (also called stringvox 3/XL or String-thing?).

I have seen at least some supporting evidence for most of these points. However the writer seems to have not been aware of the blacktop K2, nor of the significant differences between the K1s and the EK61. I have seen some pictures of the K4r3 but none show names Stringvox or String Thing, just K4.

It seems likely that the original instrument which is the topic of this comment was a K1r2, but this is not certain.


Comment or Question about this page?write


Comments

ad blocking

by electropict on 2022-05-04 10:11

It seems that some ad-blocking software manages to block the Hohner advertisments shown in the General References section above. (unhappy emoticon) I’m not sure there’s anything I can do about that. If it’s a problem, you could try these direct links to see the higher-resolution pictures:

comment?

edit (comm_id 5)


Notes

  1. My tentative understanding is that, as with Logan, and to some degree ELKA, at different times ELEX marketed their products directly in Italy, but left international sales to Hohner. So there are many more of each rebadged model than of the ELEX versions, and even then, sometimes the web appears to have a record of only one Hohner.  
  2. That is, if the Vox String Thing really existed; regarding which I have some lingering doubts. I may write an article about that one day.  
  3. Schematics date 1976, but it may not have been available till ’77.  
  4. Schematics date January 1975, so probably released within the same year.  
  5. The 12-oscillator approach was already becoming outmoded at this point. Compare the ELKA Rhapsody 490 and Logan String Melody, which came out about the same time, using TOG chips. Much more compact, and eventually cheaper, if they weren’t already.  
  6. Not 61 oscillators, which wouldn’t even require dividers.  
  7. There is one video example of an ambiguous K1 with tapered-profile keys, which could be either r1 or r2.  
  8. The original JCS website has been replaced by a new site at crasno.ca, so the link given is to the Internet Archive. According to the author (personal communication), a revised version of the article may appear at the new site later in the next year or so. I’ll update the link as and when.  
  9. It’s possible that the r5 was sold simultaneously with the r4 in different national markets.  
  10. Schematics date April 1975, so probably released within the same year.  
  11. There was also a similar Excelsior EK 4, which seems to a cut-down version with only the strings and brass voices (and an extra control button in the brass section), and 49 keys; but I’m not aware of a Hohner version of it. And apparently an Excelsior EK 6 synthesiser — of which I’ve seen one demo video, though no Excelsior/ELEX branding is shown.  
  12. Meanwhile, by about 1979, Logan had a UK branch and marketed the String Orchestra and other instruments directly. (I’ve seen an advert but not a definite date.)  

Article text ©2022 Electropict Creative Commons Licence.
Click images for individual licences.


next post: Got Me
older post: Honour